For the seventh consecutive year, scientists from around the world met at the Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organization (KALRO-Njoro) for training on “Standardization of Stem Rust Note-taking and Evaluation of Germplasm.” The week-long course (12-18 October 2015) attracted 32 participants from institutions in 12 countries, including Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia, Hungary, India, Iran, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Turkey, and USA.
The course aimed to create awareness of the devastating effects of stem rust race Ug99 on global wheat production; train wheat researchers to use new approaches to fight the rust diseases (including genetics, pathology, breeding, and molecular genetics); and teach them methods for identifying, scoring, and evaluating stem rust both in the field and experimental plots. Practical sessions focused on demonstrating rust methodologies and giving participants hands-on experience in scoring the disease both in the greenhouse and the field. “They also evaluated materials from their own national programs to know the status of resistance and learned breeding approaches to develop resistant varieties,” explained Sridhar Bhavani, CIMMYT wheat pathologist/breeder and course coordinator based in Kenya.
The annual training course is part of the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat (DRRW) project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Department for International Development (DIFD, UK), which is designed to monitor further migration of Ug99 and its variants; facilitate field screening of international germplasm; identify new sources of resistance; understand the genetic basis of resistance; develop durable, targeted breeding programs; and enhance the capacity of national programs.
The course was opened by Immaculate Maina, Center Director, KALRO, Njoro, who described global efforts to combat the rusts, particularly stem rust race Ug99, which poses a great threat to wheat production and food security. She emphasized the importance of training to learn about the rust diseases and effective measures to control them and avoid epidemics. She also stressed that global partnerships and collaboration are essential for solving such challenges.
Besides the technical aspects, participants were updated on the status of wheat rusts worldwide, and how individual countries are dealing with them. Several researchers from CIMMYT, Australia, and USA delivered lectures during the training course. In this way, participants had the opportunity to interact with international scientists, while trainers learned of emerging problems from the participants.
Under the guidance of Dave Hodson, CIMMYT Senior Scientist, participants acquired hands-on experience using surveillance tools and GPS for conducting informed pathogen monitoring and surveillance, and evaluating and recording stem rust data. They also observed CIMMYT-Kenya shuttle breeding activities aimed at incorporating Ug99 resistance into CIMMYT germplasm and progress in breeding for durable adult plant resistance.
Speaking at the end of the training, Ravi Singh, Chief Wheat Breeder and Distinguished Scientist, CIMMYT, emphasized that global collaboration and networking are vital in addressing global challenges such as stem rust Ug99.
Participants acknowledged the valuable knowledge and experience shared by rust researchers including Bob McIntosh (University of Sydney), as well as CIMMYT scientists Ravi Singh, Dave Hodson, Julio Huerta, among others. As Pakistani participant Shahzad Asad said, “This training course was a perfect opportunity to evaluate materials from our countries against stem rust and update our knowledge of rust diseases, especially Ug99.”